Sup y’all? =) After taking February off on the blog, I return with an absolutely fantastic interview with an extraordinarily talented friend of mine who’s also a part of our mental health collective in ‘It’s Still You‘ (info on that here). Without further ado, enjoy this lovely, very frank discussion with Stephen Patterson aka stig!
Hoodie: Heya stig! Welcome to the blog!
Before we get rolling along, give us a quick rundown of who you are and what you’re about!
stig: Hello Sir, lovely to be here. I am Stig, an electronic melodician from the United Kingdom. I am about communication.
Hoodie: Communication can in fact be quite fantastic, especially in this modern world we live in.
stig: It is quite simply the crux of everything, which makes it both terrifying and deeply fascinating.
Hoodie: INDEED. haha
Speaking of communication, it was the *electronic* version of such that lead me to discovery your artistry! Social media shares of ‘Velocity’ via Ubiktune I believe.
stig: Yes indeed, I intended ‘Velocity’ to have a large reach among the chiptune community, a wealth of kindred spirits.
Hoodie: As a big fan of both prog and chip, it certainly pleased my musical appetite!
stig: Thanks, I’m really glad to hear that. It is a thing that I am immensely proud of.
Hoodie: You absolutely should be. It’s a phenomenal release. Just listened to it again the other day!
stig: Strangely, it didn’t start life as a chip influenced thing, in so much as overt musical inspiration, but like all of my projects, they always end up heading in that direction. It’s a pretty fundamental part of my soul.
Hoodie: After perusing your full discography, you are quite the wanderer musically. Yet it’s all quite fantastic.
stig: That’s a very sound observation. Each thing I do is kind of a reaction to the last, so when listened to in sequence, my work can seem quite stylistically diverse, but it all shares one really important thing – methodology. An expression of really carefully organised data, to whatever end.
That and I find it almost impossible to do the same thing twice. Although it may seem jarring when it comes to a planned and sequenced way of making, my musical background is very much in improvisation.
Hoodie: Fascinating. Mind extrapolating a little further on that?
stig: Certainly! Stig is an old norse name that means Wanderer.
I got into music in a funny way, it was just another game to me as a child. I grew up in the European home computer boom, the 1980s and early 90s in the UK were dominated by the Sinclair Spectrum and Commodore 64. The music of a sound chip spoke louder to me than words, which seemed like an arbitrary and clumsy addition to such a mathematical form, so I began experimenting around age 11 with making a machine make music. I’ve been doing it solidly for about twenty years now.
I will admit though that it’s been hard to be a wanderer. I think an Artist requires a certain level of consistency, in order for their work to be strongly identified as theirs. Something that has often been said to me by close followers of my work is that it is instantly identifiable as mine despite the diversity, but that’s a difficult unique selling point. Unmarketable, you might say.
Hoodie: Wow on many levels.
stig: The internet has helped massively. I think my work was always intended to thrive in a digital space.
Hoodie: Oh absolutely. If nothing else, it allows access to relevant communities that would be much harder to connect to without it.
And I had no clue about the name’s meaning. That’s awesome. Perfect fit for sure!
stig: It’s original form is Stigr, but I would sound like a social media platform rather than a musician.
Hoodie: Regarding the marketability of very versatile composing, I can imagine that does present an additional challenge. Yet I agree with the others: regardless of the album, it’s always clearly stig. I think that can only help.
Maybe not so much in the “general music industry” (unless it does!), but hey, we’re in the chiptune realm. Just *how* relevant is that to us after all? haha
stig: That’s been harder in an instrumental context. Although I do sing and have done all my life, the music I choose to make is very much focused on melodic counterpoint, so where a lot of musicians have their voice to tie the different threads together, the common ground among my work is slightly more oblique.
Exactly! Chiptune is a broad church of electronic music makers. It’s so stylistically and methodologically diverse, which is why I am so drawn to it.
Hoodie: It’s an amazing medium, sonic aesthetic, and collective of collectives. I have been inexorably drawn to it my entire life; first with retro video game and PC OSTs as a child, and then through video game cover bands to chipmusic composers later.
Endlessly fascinating, entertaining and inspiring, as are many, many of the kindred folk in and around it; such as yourself for instance! ^_^
stig: Why thank you sir! Something I think a lot of people will relate with is the feeling when presented with the internet of “gosh, I’m not the only one”.
Hoodie: YES. THAT. So much of that.
I experienced it myself, of course, and have watched it happen to others so many times.
stig: They probably won’t say it with a stiff british accent like I would, but y’know.
Hoodie: Some might, but not all, yes. haha
Speaking of kindred spirits on another level, yet so very related to the first, within the last year I’ve also discovered that you’re a mental health advocate and sufferer as well, so to speak. Shall we talk about that some?
Simply in general, and how it affects your music composition, of course.
stig: Most certainly, as it is in fact indellibly linked to my creative work.
I was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder last year, after many years of fuzziness on the topic. Although Autism is categorically not a mental health issue, it certainly comes with some very specific difficulties in the mental health area that are relatable to many.
Hoodie: Absolutely. There is definitely some relevant crossover there, as Gustuf Young and I also discussed here on the blog.
stig: A staggering amount of Autistic people suffer from depression, anxiety and related issues. Myself included. I think it would be disingenuous of any artist to suggest that it isn’t a primary influence on their creative endeavours. My things have ebbed and flowed and been inspired by the mood of the day.
Big shout to Gustuf and the Chiptunes 4 Autism project. I think it’s a wonderful thing.
Hoodie: Fantastically wonderful thing.
And I’ve always felt that my mental health issues, albeit not Autism derived, have been a strange blessing and a curse as well. Often they paralyze me and cause me to suffer in ways a person without such would not, but sometimes inspire and drive me to do amazing things that I might not without them.
Also, simply having greater understanding & compassion for other suffers, both diagnosed and treated *and* undisagnosed and untreated, is a boon that can come from it as well.
stig: I agree wholeheartedly. It wasn’t until relatively late in my twenties where I was able to say “I am suffering from depression”, which almost unlocked a mighty door, behind which lied recontextualising countless events in my life up to that point.
Hoodie: Just getting to the point where you can *ADMIT* such a thing is hard, and can be quite powerful when you do. Especially in modern culture, where it is *NOT* popular to do such.
stig: That is something very much shared with Autism. My sister is an Autism specialist, and my mother worked in special needs education for her entire career.
Hoodie: Oh wow.
stig: Throughout my life, when asking myself the question “Am I on the spectrum?” the other half of me would laugh it off. Actually admitting it to myself, prior to the process of seeking diagnosis was a watershed moment, akin to coming out.
How old are you now if you don’t mind me asking? To put this in context.
stig: I am 33 years old.
Hoodie: So you were very near to to folk, family even, working directly with Autism, and it took you until fairly recent to truly actualize the possibility of being Autistic yourself? That must have made the eventual revelation extra potent.
stig: I was massively resistant to it.
It had been suggested to me on many occasions, but I almost took it as an insult at the time.
Hoodie: Understandably. Like the child of a family of a psychologists unable to admit they might have mental health issues.
stig: Funny how things can be instantly ricocheted throughout the process of denial.
Hoodie: Another instance I am more familiar with than I wish I were.
stig: I felt that admitting I was Autistic might be looking for an excuse for my difficulties. Like a way to say to people “Oh, I’m not being a dick, I’m autistic so you have to tolerate it”. That was pretty unpalatable to me while I was still in the process of understanding exactly what it meant to me.
Hoodie: Yes. I understand this as well. Suffering from depression, severe anxiety (panic attacks long before I knew what that even meant), and PTSD since adolescence, it felt like “weakness” to claim it. An excuse to receive sympathy and be consoled instead of “deal with it” and “man up”, to use a couple of terrible phrases our collective cultures rely on to hide suffering.
Surely I was better than that. Surely I could “suck it up” and press on.
stig: You need to know where A is in order to reach B. So often, we hover around the F mark expecting a linear path to B.
Hoodie: Very much so.
stig: I wasn’t happy. I knew it, but I wasn’t willing to truly admit the position I was in, so there was not really any possibility of reaching a happy destination
Hoodie: Of course.
stig: In terms of neurological difference rather than mental health though, being diagnosed was nothing short of a liberation.
I didn’t have to pretend any more, or fulfill any specific expectation, I could be me without edit, through acceptance that attempting to be typical was a futile endeavour that was hurting me.
Hoodie: Right. Happy for you that you were finally able to receive that and be appropriately liberated!
stig: Nothing changed on a superficial level, but the internal machinations were set free to perform alchemy and unusual chemistry!
In a word, freedom.
Hoodie: Self granted freedom to simply be who you are is often the greatest freedom. Especially when you were truly only bound by yourself in the first place.
stig: No one else can give that to you. It has to come from you.
Hoodie: Absolutely. It’s a powerful thing.
Especially so simply because of that fact.
stig: That fact inspired a track of mine, ‘Boundless’, which relates primarily to the freedom to be ones self without edit nor compromise.
Hoodie: Ah. From ‘Opacity’. Marvelous, *marvelous* album. Has been on my regular rotation as of recent. There’s an exceptional amount of emotion and intimacy in that album. Definitely touched me.
stig: I’m thrilled that ‘Opacity’ served in that capacity.
Hoodie: That was a rhyme just in time.
The ‘Opacity’ record was originally commissioned as a soundtrack to a Wildlife Photography exhibition. I received this commission at a very difficult time in my personal life, during which I am not afraid to admit that I had experienced suicidal thoughts.
As I am sure anyone who has suffered from depression will know, doing the things you most enjoy during that period is like climbing a mountain. I hadn’t got anywhere near even a concept for a photography exhibition.
stig: I found objective help, which was crucial.
And got to a place where I realised that music needed to function, as it so often had in the past, as both convalescence and eventual redemption.
Hoodie: I initially read the description, and the bit about the commission, and thought, “Oh. Cool. This should be an cool release.” But was blindsided by the raw emotion in it. It’s palpable. At least to me.
stig: For such calm and simple music, making it was genuinely a battle with my soul.
Hoodie: I can only imagine.
stig: I called it ‘Opacity’ because it was like fighting the darkness, letting a tiny bit of light through, like a pinhole camera.
Hoodie: Did you struggle with feeling like it wasn’t genuine, since you were suffering so deeply? Or was part of the point *TO* make it “real” throughout your suffering?
stig: In the interest and appreciation of the maximum honesty of this exchange, I hated the music as I was making it.
stig: If it hadn’t been for a commission, I might never have let it out into the world. It seemed like a sum of my failings, or insurmountable attempts to escape a black hole. I wasn’t able to listen back to it for quite a while after I’d made it, which has happened before with a previous project. Like that other project, when I did, I felt like I’d made something quite astonishing strictly by my own standard. Because hindsight brought the knowledge that making it was the ladder, the ladder I needed. But it’s so hard to see that while you’re still climbing.
I knew there was something extra special about that album. Like I said, you can feel it. It’s tangible. But I was suffering similarly when listening to it.
stig: I started ‘Velocity’ immediately, like the day after I finished that record.
Hoodie: Ah! That I didn’t know.
stig: They are very much an alliterative pair, conjoined twins. After my escape from the black hole, I was actually bursting with energy, like I had so much that I had no idea what to do with.
Hoodie: I’m going to listen to them back to back tomorrow with this in mind. I can see it without even doing such, but I want to experience it firsthand.
stig: There is one particular melodic theme that appears on both. Maybe you can try and spot it.
Hoodie: Oh you better believe I will (try)! hahaha
stig: Not to spoil the surprise, but on ‘Opacity’, it is harmonically unresolved, but on ‘Velocity’ it resolves perfectly.
Hoodie: Duly noted! Not a spoiler. Just a hint. ;)
The power of music truly is an absolutely amazing thing. Creating, struggling with, sharing and experiencing it.
stig: It really is.
Making things is the way out. Or should I say, the way through.
Hoodie: It often is, yes. Making. Being makers.
I think it’s an essential part of being human. From making the smallest to the greatest things, it’s an important aspect of our ability to thrive, to resolve, to be satisfied. And, of course, the struggle therein.
stig: Beautifully put
Hoodie: Every once in awhile something relatively profound slips out of my mouth. ;)
And thank you.
stig: To frame the serious around the frivolous only serves to heighten the serious.
Hoodie: (I’m practicing simply accepting compliments instead of deflecting them; it’s a lifelong habit tbh)
stig: Oh, one we all share. One thing that I have found frustrating about interviews in the past is the inability to concentrate on the interviewer. Being Autistic has it’s significant challenges with social interaction and to me, I tend to feel more comfortable in an equal conversation.
In lieu of a stream of compliments though, I’ve appeared on two Chiptunes = WIN releases now, I think support of someone’s goals and achievements is the highest compliment you can pay a person.
Hoodie: Thank you. ❤
And thank you *AGAIN* for being a part of them. It’s been a joy and an honor, and I hope to work with you plenty more in the future.
stig: You’re welcome. I’d like to think that is somewhat of an inevitability.
Hoodie: I’d like to think that as well. ^_^
While I’m quite certain I could easily talk to you all night, it’s a good deal later in your part of the world (damn time zones!). Have any final thoughts to share before we wrap this up?
stig: I do. Music and mental health are forever linked. I mentioned at the beginning that I am about communication first and foremost; to communicate one’s self entirely must include all of it. At some point, you’ve got to own it all, the difficult stuff sat next to the magical thoughts in a melting pot of expression. I will always make music, because I’ll always need to. I’ll always need to say what can’t be said with words, both to myself and others.
Hoodie: Very well said. I look forward to experiencing your continued magical musical wanderings.
Thank you for sharing with me here today.
stig: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.